Adapting coursebook material – reading and listening texts

With most of my classes I have a set coursebook to follow and I often look for ways to adapt texts or individual exercises to include little games. This post will introduce games that can be used as a stage within a reading or listening lesson, from introduction of the text to discovery of the grammar.

In the sections in italics I go into a little more depth and detail, but these concepts could be thought of as quite basic. You can skip past anything in italics if you just want to find the games.


Prediction ‘quiz’

In both reading and listening practice, an element of prediction from your students is useful to encourage engagement with the text and develop their skills of reading for gist and scanning for detail. Many books will suggest asking a few questions before you read or listen to a text but they can sometimes be a little dry. One way to improve this is to make a quick multiple choice quiz.

From a reading or listening lesson, using questions from the coursebook or a few of your own, create a multiple choice quiz. Write the possible answers on the board, labelled ‘a’, ’b’ and ‘c’ (don’t write the questions themselves as it’s time consuming and students’ attention will be divided when you want them to focus and discuss on each question in turn). Divide your class into groups of three or four and tell them to discuss each question and write down the answer they all agree on. Read each question, repeating where necessary. Teams give you their answers after each question and you mark them on the board with different colours for each team. They then read or listen to the text to find the answers. During feedback, award points for correct predictions and quick discovery of the correct answers (so points are available even if a team’s predictions were wrong).

My teen class were particularly competitive and engaged, despite the questions being about the history of potatoes. I was also able to add some misdirection to the questions which is useful for an exam class.


Definitions from the text

A common reading activity is matching a list of given definitions to highlighted words within the text. These can sometimes be a little too easy for my students to work out, or even guess, without engaging with the text itself.

So instead, I start by asking students to hide the definitions given in the coursebook with a sheet of paper and discuss the meaning of the highlighted words in pairs. I give them three to five minutes and monitor their discussions, giving hints where required.  They then complete the activity with the definitions in the exercise to check their understanding.

This method encourages students to search for meaning within the text, rather than immediately selecting the definition which best matches the word. I think it’s an improvement as the assumed purpose of the activity is for students to develop their skills in deducing meaning. You can create an activity like this yourself by selecting some useful words or phrases from a text for students to discuss. You can then hand out dictionaries for students to check their ideas along with class feedback.


Sentence sorting

Some books ask students to simply find examples of the target language in the text as a way of transitioning from the reading or listening exercises to the analysis of the grammar. This game was made to add an element of interaction and discussion to this kind of activity.

Choose eight sentences from the text which include the target language and type them onto numbered slips of paper. Change four of the sentences so that they have typical mistakes students make with this language. In my example we have ‘infinitive with to’ and ‘gerunds (-ing forms)’. With their books closed, students work in pairs to put the eight sentences into two groups of four correct and four incorrect sentences.

  1. Daniel suggested to go to the swimming pool.
  2. He decided to try the Spanish omelette.
  3. Sarah didn’t want to do much exercise.
  4. We’re planning going out later on.
  5. They would like having pizza tonight.
  6. I expect to win if we compete again.
  7. I’m looking forward to stay in a luxury hotel.
  8. He seemed to enjoy his big breakfast.

I swap the pairs for a second round of discussion by moving one student from one end of the class to the other (this works with my classroom with minor disruption as shown below). Students then open their books and check their answers by finding the examples within the text.

Desk layout pairs.png

Error buzz-in

I used this as a revision activity to revisit errors that students made when they first practised the target language. I think it can be helpful to revisit texts so students can focus on the grammar in a familiar context (rather than the sometimes arbitrary controlled practice questions).

Prepare by retyping a section of the text with eight errors connected to the target language. Students work on their own to find the errors and correct them (you can make the activity more challenging by keeping the number of errors secret). Then split the class into groups of four or five and ask students to compare their answers. Now ask each team to come up with a ‘ distinct sound’ and choose a person to make it. The chosen person in each team will act as their team’s buzzer. Read the text as it’s written, including the errors, and students ‘buzz-in’ with their sound when they hear a mistake.

If they buzz-in too early, or during a part that wasn’t a mistake, the team loses a point. If they buzz-in first and make a perfect correction they gain two points. If a team buzzes-in and makes a partial correction they gain a point but the remaining point can be claimed by another team. This game can be a little noisy, but I like the collaborative and competitive nature of the game.

A similar game can be made from a custom gap fill, where you read the text and pause at each gap, allowing teams to take turns rather than buzz-in. Rather than type out the whole text you can use white-out (correction fluid) and make photocopies. I got the idea of creating gap-fills from reading or listening texts from Sandy Millin.

Thanks for reading!

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